Popular children’s game Pexeso marks 50 years

Photo: Barbora Kmentová

Pexeso, the Czech answer to Memory, is turning 50. The game, ever popular with children and their parents, traditionally consists of 32 identical pairs of drawings to be matched up.

Photo: Barbora Kmentová
Pexeso appeared in 1965 as the brainchild of Zdeněk Princ. The name came from a TV game show at the time called Pekelně se soustřed, meaning to focus very intensively. Like its German predecessor, Memory, Pexeso requires players to turn over matching pairs from memory. This is one game where kids usually have an advantage over adults. One child, taking part in a Pexeso competition, told Czech TV the kind he liked the best:

“The best ones are the cartoons or fairy tale ones. The most difficult are the ones featuring national flags.”

In Czechoslovakia, Pexeso caught on largely because of children’s animated TV series such as Večerníček, depicting popular cartoon characters, from Krtek (Little Mole) to Maxipes Fík (a friendly talking dog). It is a mainstay sold at Czech castles, hotels, theme parks, and toy stores. Every year, a good number of firms even have Pexeso games printed as cheap marketing tools, depicting even items as banal as door handles, Czech TV noted. Annually, some 500 new sets are published, many no longer identical matches but thematic ones: a pair of soccer-themed Pexeso cards might feature a picture of Argentine footballer Lionel Messi on one, and a close-up of his famous left boot kicking the ball on the other. You have to match them up.

Not surprisingly, with so many editions published over the years, the game has its collectors. The second-largest collection in the Czech Republic is said to belong to Tomáš Hanzal. He owns more than 3,600 different editions:

Photo: Barbora Kmentová
“That’s my treasure, have a look. There are 34 of these small boxes in in all. This is first edition from TV, this is the first one to feature photographs, in B&W.”

Other rarities include Pexeso sets only one centimeter by centimeter in size, or unusual subjects, many fiendishly difficult to tell apart. One set from neighbouring Slovakia (where Pexeso also remains popular) features the famous ice caves in Slovenský raj national park. Telling some of the icy chambers apart is enough to give anyone over the age of 10 a migraine in no time flat, requiring a pack of ice on your forehead. Best avoided, unless you are a seasoned Pexeso fan.